Central Indiana Regional Bikeways Plan up for review

Urban Indy is a huge champion for cycling improvements within the Indianapolis area. Cycling is a low cost, low emission and healthy way to get around for short trips to the store, to see friends, get to work, school, etc. It is with these thoughts, that I am happy to pen this review of the recently unveiled Central Indiana Regional Bikeways Plan (click to open 79 page .pdf).

Central Indiana Bicycle Plan - Draft (image credit: bikeway plan)
Central Indiana Bicycle Plan - Draft (image credit: bikeway plan)

The Indy MPO has been gathering input over the past year from people via the Indyconnect site as well as some other public meetings. Existing bicycle plans were taken into account and a fiscally constrained long range plan for bicycling has been rolled out. Much like the region’s LRTP with covers roads, transit, etc the bike plan is constrained by the amount of funds available. Indeed, the bike plan itself was built upon the recently adopted regional long range plan. In that plan, 7% of all funds collected will be put towards bicycle & pedestrian plans with a grand total in 2010 dollars of $13.5 million available each year; $7.5 million per year would be used to fund bicycle infrastructure.

Cultural Trail (image credit: Curt Ailes)
Cultural Trail (image credit: Curt Ailes)

So what will this fund exactly? A look at the map and a perusal of the plan text itself shows a large amount of bike lanes for Marion County (Indianapolis), a large amount of side paths for the suburbs, and a large amount of trail projects dispersed around the entire MPO planning area. The planning horizon extends to 2035 and that period is sub-divided into 4 periods in which projects are to be built. Extensions of many existing trails are included in the plan with the extension of the Monon north, the completion of the Pennsey as well as extension of the B&O.

An in depth analysis shows that the trail projects seem to be the ones that account for the largest share of capital expenses. That is a shame since they are the safest and considered the most attractive to potential riders; the report even covers submitted comments. Respondants said one of the biggest hurdles to cycling in the region was the proliferation of roads and interaction with motorists on those roads. That hits at the heart of something we debate often here at Urban Indy in that making streets calmer for cyclists and pedestrians is a key concern to improving street-life. This report brings hard data to support that notion. Something else that strikes me is the disparity between bike lanes in the city and side paths in the suburbs. Indeed, side paths that already exist in the suburbs are cataloged with a large portion of them in Hamilton County. The plan breaks down the cost of side paths vs bike lanes, so it is easy to see why bike lanes are prescribed in most places instead of side paths. Going forward, the amount of bike lanes far surpasses side paths over the planning horizon. It should also be noted that there is no mention of facilities such as the Shelby Street bike track.

52nd Street Bike Lane (image credit: Curt Ailes)
52nd Street Bike Lane (image credit: Curt Ailes)

Something that makes me wonder is the lack of “special” projects that we have been overly excited about here at the blog. Projects like Georgia Street, the Cultural Trail and such seem to be absent from the plan. Indeed, these projects themselves were special expenditures not likely to be captured in a fiscally responsible and “practical” long range plan that spread money out to create more facilities. Also absent is a pedestrian plan where the other $6 million per year is to be spent. This will likely go towards general upkeep of sidewalks and such if I had to guess. Each project was assigned a score depending on how it served population & employment centers, how it integrates with present transit corridors as well as a multitude of other factors such as proximity to parks, libraries, health institutions, etc.

Bike Rack at Upland Tasting Room (image credit: Curt Ailes)
Bike Rack at Upland Tasting Room (image credit: Curt Ailes)

The plan also lays out policy implications and some dubious ones at that. They are big and could impact the quality of cycling in Indiana. They include first and foremost, the adoption of a cycling master plan. After that, they trickle down into supportive recommendations that include adopting a Complete Streets policy, establishing a bicycling advisory committee, hiring a dedicated staff for cycling programs (something that is now handled at least in Indy, by the DPW), requiring bike parking by new development, REDUCTIONS TO AUTOMOBILE PARKING, and ensuring bike-transit integration.

What the plan does NOT do, is lay out how bike lanes themselves may be constructed from a design perspective. I have personally advocated for larger buffers between automobile travel lanes and bike lanes. There is no mention of this in the report. There is mention of painted crossings which is nice however, there is nothing about painted bike boxes, something else I have spent keystrokes covering.

In that regard, it is good that this is a draft plan and it is now open to the public for comment until September 23rd, 2011. Go check out the report and submit comments so that you can voice any concerns that you may have about the plan.

Comments 9

  • Bike lanes are a lot cheaper, but the ones in Indy are not designed with safety in mind and actually make bicycle commuting more dangerous, not less. We need to stop pretending that drawing a line on the pavement somehow does something to help bicycle commuting in Indianapolis. It doesn’t.

    • If I remember the drill, Paul, this where someone disagrees with you about this, and thenyou cite to the irrelevant study from the UK which found that bike lanes that are too narrow, more narrow than the lanes in Indy, might present a problem.

      Has there been even one documented car-bike accident in an on-street bike lane since they were first installed in 2008?

      As we have discussed before, no one should ride based on the presumption that the line creates a magical force field that protects riders from harm. Still, I will take dedicated space over sharing a lane with cars that are much heavier and faster. Whether in a bike lane or in a general lane, it’s always best to assume that every driver is a moron who doesn’t care if I live or die. But as someone who has commuted on Michigan and New York both pre- and post-bike lane, having the lanes has reduced my number of negative interactions with motorists.

  • There goes Paul again… You write a good blog but geeze you really need to lighten up on that routine. Or do something constructive to change it.

    A line of separation is not magic but it tells motorists ‘No!’ I appreciate any effort to help, even if imperfect. I acknowledge the Michigan lane east of downtown to be rather narrow. I chalk that up to being a ‘first attempt’ (well almost). They could have done better.

    If the guides are any indication, the bike lanes going down either side of Shelby will be comfy wide. I would guess about 4 feet. Having just gotten myself a recumbent trike, I look forward to tooling around what lanes we have been provided. It’s a whole different thing from being eye-level with the cars.

  • This plan almost completely neglects the west and south west side along with connections out to hendricks county. How do they expect a truly comprehensive bike plan when one of the largest segments of the population is ignored.

    • My initial response is that the criteria that the planners used to decide where these routes should go, did not indicate that there was as much value in those areas. If you look at 2.2, it isn’t that they dont intend to build facilities. There are plenty of trails and lanes that would eventually go there.
      If you look at 3.1, the majority of the input came from the east and northeast parts of Marion County. The lowest input was the west and southwest. Next, population density is so low on the SW side, its not surprising. All the industrial property has lead to a low residential base. Transit is less of a factor. Not only that, perhaps further west Hendrix county is simply not willing to fund their share of bike related facilities. Hamilton County has made it a priority. When you dig into how these things are funded at a normal LRTP level, even though it shows up on the MPO (regional) report, the money still comes from the counties (local) deciding that is how they want to spend it.
      I can’t say that is the right answer. I also don’t disagree with you. But they give plenty of credible evidence to back up why lanes to those areas are not a priority in the near-term

  • I realize the west and sw aren’t set up for the best cycling investment, but that isn’t because of a lack of desire. I lived on the west side for 20 years and now work in hendricks county and commute to DT indy by bike. I see many others with the same routine. The northside has the Monon and various bike lanes. The east side has the pensy trail listed as a priority and the south side is getting a bike lane and ‘cycle track’. I don’t argue that the north and northeast side probably have the most active cycling community outside of DT and also have much invested, but what is the point for the west sider who has no options? All I am saying is provide a connection. It can be the completion of the B&O or it can be a bike lane along 10th. Each side of the city should have something for connection to DT and then local communities can decide to build and connect into that system or not. The plan seems to just throw out a bunch of bike lanes and trails here and there as if geared completely towards recreation. I believe we should invest in a radial system for main arteries or bike highways and then use bike lanes or side paths to branch out or into this system. I am all for bike infrastructure and it would have helped me this morning when i was nearly hit and hat to bust my rim on a curb to avoid it. I am just saying we need a true vision.

  • Indianapolis does have a Complete Streets policy. It’s called the “Multi-Modal Corridor and Public Space Design Guidelines”. IRTC approved the Guidelines in August 2008.

  • But did the City of Indianapolis adopt it. They certainly aren’t using it on West 38th Street.

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